Starting your own happiness project

This month I re-read Gretchen Rubin’s book, “The Happiness Project”. In the book she spends a year exploring what happiness means, and how she can become happier. One of the first things she does is to write her own personal commandments, or rules to live by.  The first rule is “Be Gretchen”, meaning that she needs to first and foremost be true to herself, and what she wants and needs. She later realizes that what she thinks is fun might not be fun to others, and vice versa. Toward the end of the book she begins to understand that as humans, we need to continue to grow in order to feel happy.

It could take someone a year just to figure out those pieces. What does it mean to be yourself? What do you think is truly fun? And how can you continue to grow and expand?

If your job is really fulfilling for you, and you are growing and expanding there, then maybe work is a source of happiness for you. But if it isn’t, you might want to think about adding something to your life that will bring you happiness (or changing your work, but that’s a different conversation). To make yourself happier, you need to make time for you. I mean truly make time for something that brings you happiness. This could be small, like making time to read a good book or trying a new recipe every week. Or it could be bigger, like learning a language or taking up a new sport or hobby.

They say that if we think about the things we enjoyed doing as children, we’ll understand what we truly enjoy doing as adults. This is a good place to start to figure out what will make you happy. Another way is to think about that thing you’ve always wanted to do. Learn to play tennis, hike to Everest Base Camp, make a beautiful birthday cake. Take a walk every morning at sunrise. Do a very large jigsaw puzzle. Organize a surprise party for your best friend.

The possibilities are endless! But the first thing you need to do is figure out what you want to do. Don’t put any restrictions on your ideas, just let them flow. Then take a hard look at how you spend your time. How many things are you doing, outside of work, that you don’t enjoy doing? And why are you doing them? There could be a good reason, but any answer that involves “should” is going to make me suspicious.

Make your happiness goal reasonable. Choose something from your “fun” list that you can start to fit into your life on a regular basis. Even if you just start researching how it might happen – where can you take tennis lessons? – you’ll see how much it will lift your spirits.

Move yourself just one notch up the priority list and see what happens. A happier you will make a big difference to everyone around you, but most importantly, it will make a big difference to *you*.